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Arrangements following a death

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When a Death occurs

If the Death occurs in hospital, the hospital staff will contact the person named by the deceased as next of kin.  The hospital will keep the body in the hospital mortuary until the executor arranges for it to be taken away and will arrange for the nearest relative to collect the deceased's possessions.

If the Death was expected, contact the doctor who attended the deceased during their final illness.  If the doctor can certify the cause of death he or she will give you the following:
- a Medical Certificate that shows the cause of death (this is free of charge and will be in a sealed envelope addressed to the registrar)
- a Formal Notice that states that the doctor has signed the Medical Certificate and tells you how to get the death registered.

If the Death followed illness from HIV or AIDS there may be special rules about handling the body, funeral directors will be able to give advice and the following organisation can advise on funeral arrangements:
- Terence Higgins Trust.

If you discover a body or the Death is sudden or unexpected, you should contact the following people:
- the police (who will help find the people listed below if necessary)
- the family doctor (if known)
- the deceased's nearest relative
- the deceased's minister of religion

If there is any reason to suspect that the death was not due to natural causes, do not touch or remove anything from the room.  The death may be referred to the coroner.  The doctor may ask the relatives for permission to carry out a post-mortem examination.  This is a medical examination of the body which can find out more about the cause of the death and should not delay the funeral.

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Reporting a Death to a Coroner

In any of the following circumstances the doctor may report the death to the coroner.

  • an accident or injury
  • an industrial disease
  • during a surgical operation
  • before recovery from an anaesthetic
  • if the cause of death is unknown
  • the death was sudden and unexplained, for instance, a sudden infant death (cot death)

You will be advised if the death has to be reported to the Coroner, in which case the death cannot be registered nor the funeral take place, without the Coroner's Authorisation.  Where a death is reported to the Coroner, the Coroner's Office will contact the relatives.

A Coroner can order a post-mortem examination without getting the relative's permission.  This examination will ascertain the cause of death.  He may also wish to hold an investigation into circumstances leading up to a death (this is called an inquest).  When an inquest is called, the Coroner's Office will contact the relatives.  This should not cause undue distress as it is a legal formality.

In such cases the Death Certificate will be issued direct to you from the Coroner's Office and the relatives must then go to the Registrar to register the death.  When an inquest is to be held, the death cannot be registered until the conclusion of the inquest, but a certificate will normally be issued at the opening of the inquest to allow the funeral to take place.

For Hastings and Rother, the Coroner can be contacted on 01424 456009 (Coroners office) or via Police incident desk telephone 0845 6070999

More information about the Coroner can be found on the Home Office website.

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Registering a Death

The death must be registered in the District Register Office where it occurred.

The Register Office for Hastings and Rother is located at;
Register Office
Bohemia Road
St Leonards on Sea
E Sussex
Telephone: 01424 726530
e-Mail: eastbourne.registrar@eastsussex.gov.uk

The Registrars Office operate an appointment system - please telephone the office.

Opening Times:
9am - 4pm Monday to Friday
Appointments 9.30am to 3.30pm

It is also possible to make a declaration to register the death before any Registrar in England and Wales to be posted to the Register Office for the district where the death took place.  If you choose to do this there could well be a delay in the funeral arrangements and in receiving documents.

Home visits to register a birth, death or still birth are entirely at the discretion of the Registrar, and are subject to many and varied criteria.  Please contact Registrar for further details.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a death should be registered within five days of its happening.  Registration can be delayed for a further nine days provided the Registrar receives, in writing, confirmation that a medical certificate of the cause of death has been signed by the doctor.

People with legal responsibility to register death include:

  • A relative of the deceased
  • A person present at the death
  • A person arranging the funeral - This does NOT mean the funeral director.

In certain circumstances others, such as the administrator of an elderly persons home, can register a death, for advice please contact the Register Office.

When you see the Registrar they will interview you in private and will ask you for the following information:
- the date and place of death
- the full name and surname, and maiden surname if the person who has died was a married woman
- the date and place of birth
- the occupation and, if the deceased person was a married woman or widow the full name and occupation of her husband
- the usual address
- if the person who has died was married, the date of birth of the surviving spouse
- whether the person who has died was receiving a pension from public funds

You will need the medical certificate of cause of death issued by the doctor treating the person who has died.  This is essential - the Registrar can do nothing without it.  If the death has been referred to the Coroner, the Coroner's Office will advise you what to do.  If the deceased received a pension or allowance from public funds, eg. Civil Service or Army Pensions, please inform the Registrar.

This information will then be written into a register.  This is the "original" legal record and you should check it through very carefully before signing it, as any mistakes discovered later on may be difficult to correct.

You will be given a "Green Form" which enables you to arrange the funeral (If the Coroner is involved different procedures may apply) and a form for Social Security purposes.  Both of these documents are issued free of charge.

A death certificate can also be purchased from the Registrar.

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Exhumation of deceased body

Exhumations are generally rare and tend to be traumatic for the family involved.  They can take a long time to arrange and are usually expensive.  For these reasons, it is always best to consult with all the relatives before proceeding.
Exhumation of both buried and cremated remains generally requires a Home Office licence.

Exhumations occur for a number of reasons, including:
- movement from the original grave to a subsequently acquired family plot in the same or other cemetery
- repatriation overseas to be buried along with other family
- transfer from one cemetery scheduled for development to another
- court orders requiring further forensic examination

However, it is an offence to exhume any human remains without first obtaining the necessary lawful permissions.  Funeral directors can help in obtaining these.

A licence must be obtained from the Home Office.  Exhumation licences will also contain certain conditions that have to be observed.  If the person is buried in Consecrated grounds, permission from the church must also be obtained.  An Environmental Health Officer must be present at the exhumation of a body to ensure that there is no threat to public health.  Occasionally cadaver certificates are required in addition to exhumation licences.

An Environmental Health Officer (EHO) must be present at the exhumation and supervises the event to ensure that respect for the deceased person is maintained and that public health is protected.  The EHO, in conjunction with the Cemetery Manager will also ensure that:
- the correct grave is opened
- the exhumation commences as early as possible in the morning to ensure maximum privacy
- the plot is screened as appropriate for privacy
- health and safety of all workers is maintained e.g. protective clothing including masks and gloves, task lights and all other necessary equipment
- everyone present shows due respect to the deceased person and to adjoining graves
- the nameplate on the casket corresponds to that on the licence
- the new casket has been approved by the Environmental Health Officer
- all human remains and all the pieces of casket are placed in the new casket
- the new casket is properly sealed
- the area of exhumation is properly disinfected, and satisfactory arrangements are in place for the onward transmission of the remains

If the conditions of the licence cannot be met, or there are public health or decency concerns, the exhumation may not proceed.

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Deaths - Historic Searches

Historic searches are not carried out by the Cemetery and Crematorium office in Hastings.  Please contact the District Register Office for further information.

The indexes in a Superintendent Registrar's office relate only to births, marriages and deaths occurring within the Superintendent Registrar's district.

Searches of death indexes

Superintendent Registrars do not have the staff to undertake searches of an indefinite or protracted nature.  Usually a search in the death index, covering a period not exceeding 5 years, will be made but only where accurate details have been given of the death registration.  If a wider search is required it is necessary for the applicant or someone on his/her behalf to make a general search in the indexes.  For further information see below and then make enquiries of the Superintendent Registrar.

General searches at a Superintendent Registrar's office

The indexes in a Superintendent Registrar's office relate only to births, marriages and deaths which occurred within the Superintendent Registrar's district.

A general search is a search in the indexes conducted in person by the applicant or someone on his/her behalf during any number of successive hours not exceeding six.  By arrangement with the Superintendent Registrar a person making a general search may have access to the indexes to the registers of births, marriages and deaths but not to the registers themselves.  A certificate of any entry identified may be obtained on completion of an application form and on payment of the appropriate fee.

If a person making a general search is uncertain whether a reference found in the indexes relates to the entry for which he/she is searching, the Superintendent Registrar, on being given definite details by which the entry may be identified, may verify those particulars by reference to the register.  Any additional information from the entry can only be made available in the form of a certificate.

The burial records of the cemetery are available for consultation by any person, during normal business hours.  Where year of death is known this is free of charge.  A full search of the records may incur charges.  

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